Provost, DEI respond to caregiver concerns

Aug. 13, 2020 — UO Provost Patrick Phillips and Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh, vice president for the Division of Equity and Inclusion, announced yesterday several new measures that address faculty concerns during the pandemic including caregiver support; service and time limitations; impacts on promotion and tenure; equity, anti-racism, and faculty support; and access to campus spaces. These measures respond to concerns voiced in the Survey on Faculty Research and Creative Practice, which was launched during the last few weeks of the spring 2020 term, as well as issues identified by the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).

In an Aug. 12 letter to CSWS Director Michelle McKinley, Phillips highlighted how several initiatives resolve issues brought up in both the faculty survey and the CSWS Caregiver Campaign:

Human Resources has assembled a team to develop recommendations for consideration by the president on how the university can support the needs of our faculty responsible for childcare. More information will be released in the near future with these updates that takes into consideration the rapidly changing situation with K-12 education in the state.

The university has also launched a new Employee COVID-19 Relief Fund. This fund can provide up to $500 to employees who have experienced unanticipated financial challenges, including an increase in childcare expenses. While we have received requests to allow faculty to use their professional development dollars or be provided additional compensation (e.g., course releases) to address childcare needs, these cannot be granted in an equitable manner. The emergency fund will help provide some immediate financial relief across all employees. 

The Office of the Provost has asked that units relieve or reduce service obligations for faculty. We ask that all non-essential service be postponed over the coming academic year. All departments have been asked to convene and identify what is the essential service for the coming year, and to address equitable principles of allocation, including considerations of those faculty with increased caregiver responsibilities, faculty rank, and other professional responsibilities. This information will be shared with deans and the provost.

In the spring term, the Office of the Provost waived student and peer evaluations for all faculty. Over the summer, that review process was also modified with an opt-in approach for faculty wishing to have student feedback. The Continuous Improvement and Evaluation of Teaching Committee (CIET) has been asked to develop recommendations for teaching evaluations for fall, which will be discussed with Senate and United Academics leadership.

We have suspended a number of review processes including Core Education course reviews and initiation of planned program self-studies and reviews. Senate leadership is also addressing the work of Senate committees to reduce non-essential work or work than can be postponed for a year.

—Patrick Phillips

Wednesday’s joint announcement from the provost’s office and DEI covers caregiver support initiatives in process now that focus on near-term actions to assist caregivers in the UO community. These initiatives include:

  • A UO hosted and created electronic platform that will (1) assist those in the UO community seeking care in being able to search and identify interested providers; and (2) allow interested providers from within the UO community (e.g. students) to submit their information so it is visible to those seeking care. Initial development is complete with further legal review and refinement is underway.
  •  A UO hosted and created electronic platform that allows families to post and search information related to how they may be able to partner or assist each other with meeting specific care needs. This will be a way for those in the UO community to network and find collaborations and facilitate building connections, particularly as we continue in a more remote stance than usual both on campus and in the community (e.g., k-12). Initial development is underway with further legal review and refinement forthcoming.
  •  A single, centralized UO website for all caregiver resources. Currently, caregiving resources can be found on several existing university department webpages (Human Resources, Student Life, etc.). By combining all resources on a single website, users will have one location to go to and gain assistance. Communications is assisting the team with a 3- to 4-week development schedule.
  •  A local childcare provider is engaged with team members in determining whether there is on-campus space available for them to use for providing additional onsite school-age childcare this fall. Some limited space that may meet the provider’s basic requirements for childcare has been identified. Further review of the space and this opportunity will be required to determine the safety and efficacy of this approach, given the pandemic and the responsibility to manage safety for our entire campus community.
  •  “Parenting During the Pandemic” discussion session — This open discussion session is an opportunity for UO employees with children to connect with other parents. The focus of the session is to provide parents a space to share ideas, strategies, and resources for working from home with children. The sessions will be hosted by UO colleagues who will be there to listen, help prompt discussion, and to offer suggestions for related resources available to employees. Sign up is required in order to manage the size of the groups in order to facilitate dialogue. Forums for student parents are currently being planned. Register on the MyTrack Learning module and Zoom details will be sent out to all participants who sign up prior to the session. Session Dates are: Thursday, August 20, 2020 – 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Tuesday, August 25, 2020 – 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 – 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In addition, ASUO childcare subsidies continue to be available for student parents, including graduate students (and GEs). Federal CARES Act Grants applications will be available again in September through the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships for students who are dealing with serious financial disruptions related to COVID. The Students in Crisis Fund through the Office of the Dean of Students is also available for students who are ineligible for the CARES ACT Grant and dealing with a financial crisis.

Details about these and other initiatives in response to faculty concerns during the COVID-19 crisis are available on the Provost’s website.